MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. >> Back in November, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Miami’s goal was to play in meaningful games in December and January.
“When you are in those months playing meaningful football, it is something unlike any other style of football that exists,” McDaniel said. “The beginning of the season pales in comparison to that environment.”
The Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers will have that type of experience when they meet on Christmas Day. Both teams are eyeing the postseason, but their scenarios to get there are quite different.
The Dolphins (8-6) will make the playoffs if they win their last three games — or just their last two, against division foes New England and the New York Jets. Miami has lost three straight, though, and wants to begin its playoff push by beating Green Bay.
Standing in their way is four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“We’re about to play Aaron Rodgers, who has been in the league for years and arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play,” safety Jevon Holland said. “So what more do you have to focus on? This is a huge challenge, especially for me. … Playoffs are playoffs. I’ve never been to the playoffs, so I wouldn’t know.”
The Packers (6-8) likely need to win their last three games to make the postseason, and even if they win out, they’re not guaranteed to make it.
“This is a really good football team that we’re going against,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Obviously they’re very hungry. They’ve got a lot at stake. We’ve got a lot at stake, and it should be a playoff-type game.”
McDaniel and LaFleur know each other well, having worked together as assistants with Houston, Washington and Atlanta.
LaFleur said he sees some advantage in playing against a familiar coach.
”I think it leads to some creativity, quite honestly,” he said, “because you might see the same concept that you have that gets ran and it’s like, OK, what wrinkle can I throw off of this, so I think there’s pluses and minuses to everything.”
One of the more surprising stories of the Dolphins’ season is how little Mike Gesicki, one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL, has been involved in the offense.
After having career highs of 73 receptions for 780 yards in 2021, Gesicki has caught 25 passes for 274 yards this year. He has only been targeted five times in the past four games and has just one catch for 5 yards during that span.
“I’ve made plays in this league for a long time and I’ve proven the player I am,” Gesicki said. “There’s probably defensive coordinators that are going in and watching our film and have to put in time — or at least used to have to put in time — to ‘How are we going to affect the game plan with 88 out there?’ In my opinion, yeah, I could help, but I’m just going to go about it in the most professional way I can.”
McDaniel said it’s a “failure to some degree” that he hasn’t gotten Gesicki more involved.
Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill has never played on Christmas Day and has a few holiday-themed celebrations planned for Sunday.
“It’s gonna be a fun show,” Hill said. “I’m gonna give people something to watch. It’s gonna be very entertaining.”
Hill has 109 catches for 1,529 and seven TDs this season.